Houses Renewal To Review Climate Control

With plans for Harvard’s House renewal project in development, administrators have said that heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and accessibility will all likely be included in the renovation.

In 2009, the House Program Planning Committee released a report detailing a number of recommendations for the renovations, including the introduction of more social spaces and the elimination of large group hallway bathrooms.

In the report, the committee acknowledged but did not emphasize that undergraduates would rather “control their own heat” and that they would prefer that the “renovations allow for more environmentally friendly heating and cooling.”

Recently, Faculty of Arts and Sciences administrators familiar with the renewal plans confirmed that renovations to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units will likely be folded into the larger renewal plan.

“We’re seriously looking into the development of [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning] improvements in the houses,” said one administrator in the FAS Office of Physical Resources and Planning who requested anonymity to preserve relations with the administration. “The current systems are outdated, and this is only one step towards making these Houses up to date.”

They also said that they believed the cost of implementing the renovations will equal or exceed 15 percent of the Houses’ real estate values, necessitating an increase in accessibility for disabled members of the community according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Massachusetts Architectural Access Board requires that Harvard provide “basic access,” meaning that five percent of suites, bedrooms, and supporting bathrooms be accessible,” according to the 2009 report.

The report also says that the College hopes to make nearly 100 percent of suites and shared residential common rooms accessible to a person in a wheel chair.

In an e-mailed statement yesterday, FAS Spokesperson Jeff Neal confirmed that accessibility is being considered when drafting plans for Houses.

“The physical renovation of any House structure will necessarily involve making the building [American Disabilities Act] compliant and [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certified,” Neal wrote.

Announced over two years ago, House renewal is an ambitious project to renovate the structure of Harvard’s 12 residential Houses.

FAS Dean Michael D. Smith and Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds announced in January that Old Quincy will be the first of the Houses to undergo construction.

The renovations to Old Quincy, slated to begin shortly after commencement in 2012, will allow planners to confront the design and construction issues they may face when renovating other Houses, according to a January press release.

Although the renovation plans for Quincy have not yet been finalized, Neal said that he expects the administration to release specifics to the Harvard community in May.

In January, Quincy House Master Lee Gehrke wrote in an e-mail that the College would follow the guidelines that the HPPC outlined in the report, including improved accessibility for handicapped students. He said that increased privacy for students, better safety measures, and upgraded sustainability and energy conservation efforts would also be priorities.

“If these guidelines were applied to Old Quincy, it would mean that there would no longer be students living in common rooms, and there would be no walk-through bedrooms,” he wrote.

Walk-through bedrooms, which are common in Old Quincy, require students to walk through their roommate’s bedroom to reach the bathroom.

Plans for Old Quincy will likely be finalized in the next few months in preparation for the House renewal project’s 2012 start date.

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at gkumar@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at hrouse@college.harvard.edu.

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